Passion, Power, and Intrigue in An Enduring Family Drama

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Unwatched Kiln...

Something was in the air. In his studio in the basement of Upriver Academy, Jack Muller sniffed the air experimentally. All that he could smell was the acrid scent of the kilns, baking his latest set of bowls that he promised a gift store he’d deliver before the end of the week—after slapping an obscene price tag on each and every one of them.
Jack frowned, his massive arms crossed over his pot belly. It wasn’t the smell of the kilns that he was sensing, it was something else, something invisible that seemed to be wafting through the halls of Upriver like a toxic gas that was sooner or later going to take down each and every one of them.
The rest of the staff had been in rotten moods for months but this past week had been something else. That witch Scarlett had just about taken his head off when he’d asked her if she’d ever be interested in a little old roll in the hay. Geez, he was just kidding. Didn’t anyone have a sense of humor any more? And then there was Luna, Scarlett’s little protégé, who hadn’t even talked to Jack since Christmas. Not that Jack really cared. He liked women with at least a little meat on their bones and Luna looked like a walking skeleton.  
Then there was Lucy. Lucy had been extra nasty to him lately too. Something was up. Something was going on that he didn’t know about. Not that there was anything unusual about that. Jack was almost always out of the loop when it came to what was happening at the school. His boss Dick and his little tag team of Scarlett and Gaylord kept everyone else at arm’s length. Most of the time Jack didn’t give a damn but he had a creepy feeling that maybe this time he should pay closer attention. With the attendance at Upriver sinking lower and lower every semester, he knew the school was in trouble. Plus the state was making a lot of noises lately too, noises that sounded ominously like doors slamming and paychecks not being cut.
Jack wasn’t sure what he’d do if the school closed. It wasn’t like he had any other talents that he could cash in on. At least none that paid as well as Schuylar Square Charter School. Hell, Jack wasn’t even a real teacher and he was pulling in over fifty big ones a year. Where else would he make that kind of dough for doing so little work? Not with his pottery. That was basically crap and he knew it. He was fifty-five years old, more than a little brain-addled from way too much weed, and he didn’t want to start all over again.
He couldn’t start all over again.
Jack gave himself a shake. He might detest Dick and Scarlett and Gaylord, but they were all in the same boat that he was and Jack was positive that they weren’t about to let it sink. Plus Dick and Scarlett were a lot closer to retirement than he was. They had more at stake than anyone else.
“What am I talking about?” Jack said out loud. “I haven’t heard word one about the school closing. Why am I getting all bent out of shape?”
“Talking to yourself again, Jack?” Crystal Brewer walked into the room.
Jack grinned at her. Finally, a female who wasn’t a total witch. “How's my favorite aide?”
“Hung over. Got anything on you that might make me feel better?”
Crystal did look bad. Jack knew she was only twenty-three but that morning she looked about thirty-five and a a hard thirty-five at that. “I’m afraid not. I’ve been a good boy lately.”
“Jack! I thought I could always count on you.”
Jack shook his furry head. “I told you; I’m being good. I’ve even given up smoking.”
Crystal laughed. “What’s with the great reformation? You have a health scare or something?”
“I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
Crystal laughed even louder. “And I’m the Queen of England. You never do the right thing if doing the wrong thing is easier.”
Jack laughed too. She knew him too well “Well, maybe I do have something that might make us both feel better out in my car,” he said. "We could split a forty."
Crystal reached out and patted Jack’s arm. “I knew I could count on you, Jack. But let’s drive somewhere before we ‘relax.’ If Dick catches us in the parking lot—“
“I know, I know. Mr. Boy Scout would fire us both.”
“I wish Dick would die,” Crystal remarked pleasantly as the left the art room. “Do you need to do anything about those kilns?”
“They’ll be fine,” Jack replied. Closing the door behind them, Jack led the way to the parking lot. A moment later one of the kilns made a loud cracking noise but there was no one there to hear it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Meet Pat Rider

            Slamming on the breaks of the Schuyler Square Charter School's bus with her size twelve feet, Pat Rider silently chuckled as most of the students lurched forward, lunches, books, and backpacks flying through the air. Man, but she hated those little brats. Nothing gave her more pleasure than hurling around corners, not slowing in school zones and never, ever coming to a complete stop when she came to railroad crossings.
            “Here we are, kiddos!” she shouted, her deep voice sounding even deeper than usual thanks to the pack of cigarettes and the large tumbler of Jack Daniels she’d had before work that morning. She watched contemptuously as the students slowly filed off the bus, all of them looking a little worse for wear thanks to her complete lack of driving skills.
            “Have a nice day,” she chirped as the last student hopped down the steps. They were, without exception, lazy, rude, and undeserving to be in a school, other than a reform school. So it was perfect that they attended SSCS. Pat had never in her life witnessed a school that had as little educating going on than she saw at that school. The whole set up made Pat sick. Running chapped hands over her crew cut, she frowned as she thought about SSCS. The charter school idea, on paper, might sound great but in reality it sucked. Pat knew that the school could be doing a better job. Hell, she could probably be a better teacher than the sorry lot SSCS employed and she’d dropped out of school after the ninth grade. Schuyler Square Charter School simply didn’t deserve to be using the taxpayer’s money to keep its doors open.
            And it was all because of that fathead Dick Jergeson.
            Pat felt her blood pressure spike the moment she thought about Dick. He was such a bully, so patently unfair, and so damn hardhearted when it came to things like giving Pat a raise or even a day off to do something important, like attend that seance her aunt had last year to reach her Uncle Andy. Dick had laughed in her face when she'd asked for the day off and suggested that instead she use a Ouija board--like that could take the place of a seance! Dick knew absolutely nothing about anything. 
            Fuming, Pat stared through the fly-specked windshield. SSCS would be so much better off if Dick just vanished. Then they could get an administrator who knew what he was doing, or who at least knew how to run the transportation department, of which Pat was the only member. Nothing infuriated her more than to have to go to Dick when she had a problem with the bus. To stand in front of him and try to explain how the bus was riding funny or that she thought it was time to get the engine overhauled, well, it was like standing in front of a bull and waving a red flag. No, it was more like standing in front of a bull and being the red flag.
            “What do you mean the engine is running ‘funny’?” Dick would demand. “How the hell am I supposed to know what you mean when you say it sounds ‘funny’? Can’t you at least attempt to be a little more descriptive? Is the engine knocking, is that what you mean by ‘funny’? Is one side bouncing more than the other? Is there oil coming out of the muffler? Do you have any idea of how asinine you sound when you tell me something like that? You sound like a typical, stupid, non-mechanical female and that surprises me since I’ve never been quite sure what sex you are, Pat.”
            Even Pat, who was well known for her elephant thick hide, was hurt by such nasty remarks. And there was really no reason for Dick to be so mean to her. It wasn’t like she wanted to sleep with the man, although Pat knew darn well that just about every other female in Cannonball Falls already had.
            She often pondered just why Dick seemed to get his kicks out of humiliating her. What had she ever done to him other than work for the man?
            That’s it. He gets his kicks out of turning the screws on the people who work for him. Just look at how he treats Lucy.
            Everyone knew how rotten Dick treated that poor girl. Just like everyone suspected that Lucy's son was really Dick’s kid. Pat shook her steel grey head. She didn’t know how Lucy managed to work for him. Then again, Lucy seemed pretty good at holding her own. Pat imagined that out of the entire staff, Lucy would be the happiest to see Dick drop dead.
            A sharp rap on the side window interrupted her musings. “Do you plan on sitting on your fat butt all day long?” Dick asked. “Don’t you think it might be a good idea to take the damn bus back to the garage where it belongs?”
            Instantly, Pat felt her blood pressure skyrocket even higher. Reaching for the door handle, she pulled it back so that the door swung open. Dick leaned his head in and sniffed loudly. “Pat,” he snarled, “have you been drinking again?”
            “Of course not,” Pat lied.
            “Then why does this bus smell like the inside of a pint of Jack Daniels?”
            “It must be one of the kids. You know how they are, Dick—“
            “Yeah, I know exactly how they are and seven o’clock in the morning is a little early, even for them. Pat, I’m giving you one final warning. If I ever smell liquor even near you again, your ass is grass. Do you hear me? I have my standards, you know. These kids are ultimately my responsibility. I am not going to allow you to mess this up for me.”
            “Yes, Dick,” Pat sniveled. She took a deep breath and felt her heart pounding under the blue and red flannel shirt she was wearing. As much as she hated to do it, she had to ask Dick for a favor. “I was wondering if you’d mind if I took tomorrow off.”
            Dick stared at her. “Why do you need the day off?”
            “I have a doctor’s appointment,” Pat began. She didn’t but she wasn’t about to tell Dick that she wanted the day off to go to another seance, this one to reach her cousin Pete who had died in a bizarre surfing accident precisely twenty seven years earlier. Pat was pretty sure that if she could get in touch with Pete he'd tip her off on the winning lottery number's for Saturday's drawing and she could really use the cash.
            “Reschedule it,” Dick ordered.
            “I can’t. I’m having a test done.” Pat floundered for a plausible excuse. “The doctor thinks I might have a brain tumor.”
            Dick stared at her. “Are you shitting me?”
            “No,” Pat insisted. Was she dreaming or was there actually a ray of pity in Dick’s cold eyes? “I’ve been having these awful headaches—“
            “Are you sure they aren’t hangovers?”
            “I’m positive. I haven’t had a hangover in years.” That was undoubtedly due to the fact that she hadn’t been sober in years but Pat didn’t elaborate.
            “A brain tumor, geez.” The worried look on Dick’s face thrilled Pat. The thrill faded with his next comment. “Who the hell will drive if you have a brain tumor?”
            “Can’t Jack drive? He has a bus driver’s license.”
            Dick shook his head. “Jack got busted on a DUI last weekend. They took his license away.”
            “I didn’t hear about that,” Pat said.
            “I suppose I could drive,” Dick said, his voice darkening.
            “Just for tomorrow,” Pat quickly told him. “It’s probably not a brain tumor. It’s probably something else, like an internal pimple or something like that.”
            Dourly, Dick turned away, muttering as he headed back for the school. Pat wasn’t positive but she was fairly certain that he was calling her an internal pimple.
            Looking up from her computer, Lucy saw Pat lumbering down the hall toward her office. Perfect, just perfect. The last thing she needed was to be stuck listening to how abused poor Pat was by everyone else in the entire universe. Lucy generally liked most of the people she knew but from the moment she’d met Pat Rider, she’d instantly loathed the woman. There was something creepy about Pat, especially when she stood too close to Lucy or made a point of hugging her whenever she saw her out and about in Cannonball Falls. It was like being hugged by a grizzly bear with bad breath.
            Maybe if I don’t respond to her she’ll go away. Yeah, right. Pat never took a hint, a personality quirk that she shared with the rest of the staff. “Hi, Lucy,” Pat said.
            “Hi Pat.” Lucy kept her eyes glued on her computer screen.
            “Boy, Dick sure is in a bad mood today.”
            Lucy kept silent.
            “He came out and chewed my ass but good. What’s the matter with him, anyway? He doesn’t seem to remember that I won an award last summer for Most Years In Service at the National Training Convention I went to. He also seems to forget that I have a lot of health challenges. It’s not easy to drive with vision in only one eye, you know. I just don’t understand Dan,” Pat continued. “He acts like he owns this school and he doesn’t. It’s a public school, paid for with tax dollars.”
Lucy looked up in amazement. She didn’t realize that Pat knew how public schools were funded. Pat, with her weeble-esque figure looked especially squatty that day. She also looked half in the bag. “I’m in the middle of something,” Lucy announced. “I’m sorry, Pat, but I really can’t chat right now.”
Pat pursed her lips and Lucy knew she’d made a tactical error. Now she’d have to spend twenty minutes cajoling Pat out of the pouts when she could have spent ten minutes listening to her. Something inside Lucy recoiled. Too bad. I do have work to do and I don’t have time to sit her and tell her how wonderful she is and how we couldn’t get along without her.
Lucy stiffened her resolve. The secretary had told her that very morning how she’d fielded two more telephone calls from irate Cannonball Falls citizens about Pat’s driving. And then there was that rumor floating around that Pat let one of the students drive the bus to a field trip up in the cities so she could take a nap in the back.  Lucy couldn’t pin down any of the little delinquents to tell her about it but she strongly suspected that that Pat was bribing the students with booze and cigarettes.
“I’m sorry if I’m bothering you,” Pat huffed.
“You aren’t bothering me,” Lucy replied coolly. “But I am busy. You’ll have to excuse me.”
“No, excuse me,” Pat snapped. She turned and stomped out of Lucy’s office leaving a trail of Brut and Jack Daniels behind her. 
“Was that Pat?” Dick asked from his office.
“Does she look all right to you?”
“She looks like she always does,” Lucy replied.
“She told me she might have a brain tumor. Can you believe that? If she croaks on us, that means I’m going to have to drive the damn bus for the rest of the year and there goes my long weekend camping up north. I think that sucks.”
“A brain tumor!” Guilt instantly filled Lucy. “That must be what she wanted to talk about. Oh, I should have listened to her. I feel terrible.”
Dick appeared in the doorway, his arms crossed in front of him. “The trouble with you,” he announced, “is that you always feel sorry for the wrong people.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dick leered at her. “You might feel sorry for me. I have needs to, you know.”
Lucy managed not to throw her computer at Dick. “Pat just told us that she might have a brain tumor and you’re coming on to me? Don’t you have any compassion at all?”
“Not for that lardo,” Dick grunted. “If she does have a brain tumor, which I seriously doubt, I’m sure she gave it to herself. She strikes me as the type who’d keep a microwave going 24/7. Probably has one next to her bed just in case she gets hungry in the middle of the night so she can nuke a frozen burrito or a Hungry Man dinner. You know what those rays will do to you. Zap, zap, zap all day long and you’ve got a nice, big tumor growing where your brain should be.”
Lucy turned away from Dick, sickened by the thought that such a degenerate was the father of her child.
“I’m here if you change your mind,” Dick told her.
“Don't hold your breath,” Lucy said. If anyone deserved a brain tumor, it had to be Dick,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another New Employee

When Lucy Laurenzana woke up on the second day of March her back hurt, her knees ached, and if she didn’t know better she would swear that she’d just spent the night sleeping on a barbecue grill. Staring across the living room and into the kitchen where she could see the pile of unwashed dishes from the night before, Lucy wished for the millionth time that she could afford a two-bedroom apartment so she wouldn’t have to sleep in the living room on a crappy old sofa bed her cousin had given her.
          If only she had some money. Or a better paying job. Her thoughts took a darker turn. If only she hadn’t had Pierre
          Lucy stopped herself. She loved her son more than life itself. He gave her a reason to get up in the mornings and she couldn’t imagine her life without him squarely in the center of it. If only his father was part of the picture. Then Lucy would have someone to share both the joys and sorrows of raising her son.
          Throwing back the covers, Lucy swung her legs over the side of the sofa bed. It was pointless to imagine how different her life—and Pierre’s—would be if his father wasn’t such a pathetic loser. “What was I thinking?” Lucy muttered to herself. “How could I ever have let someone like Dick Thomas even touch me, much less impregnate me?”
          Fixing herself a pot of coffee, Lucy reflected that she must have been temporarily insane when she had sex with Dan. There was no other plausible reason. And now she worked for the man at the new charter school in Schuyler Square. Obviously her insanity wasn't temporary.
          Dick was known around town as an incurable Don Juan and in his younger and stronger days use to have his trysts in a small tent perched on the bluffs overlooking Schuyler Square. How his wife tolerated him and his endless flings was beyond Lucy’s power of imagination. If she had been his wife, she would have murdered him a long time ago.
          Lucy could still remember the first time Dick had taken her to the tent. They had driven up there in separate cars, of course, and throughout the drive Lucy had been almost jumping out of her skin in anticipation. The rumors she’d heard about Dick and his skills as a lover led her to believe that she was in for an afternoon delight that would take her to heights of passion that none of her former boyfriends had even come close to scaling.
          Wrong. Maybe in his younger days Dick had been something to talk about but when Lucy finally had the opportunity to sample his charms she was as disappointed as she’d be after ordering a seven-course meal and ending up with the diet plate.
          “So why did I keep going back for more?” Lucy asked the coffeemaker. “Why didn’t I stop before he knocked me up?”
          Lucy sighed. None of that really mattered. What was done was done. And she did love Pierre, in spite of the fact that Dick refused to have anything—emotionally or financially—with their son. Dick claimed it was because she’d given their baby a “fruity” name. Why the hell did you pick "Pierre’? he’d demanded. Why didn’t you name him something macho, like Brick or Chuck? And he’d refused flat out to sign the birth certificate.
          Not that Lucy had really expected that he would. How would he have explained that to Ginger and the umpteen relatives the two of them had in and around the county? But even though Dick wasn’t paying child support, he had given her a job at his new charter school. Granted, it wasn’t much of a job but it kept a roof over their heads and paid for little Pierre’s day care.
          After finishing her coffee, Lucy woke Pierre up and got him ready for day care. “Mommy,” Pierre said as they drove to the Kiddie Kollege, “do I have a daddy?”
          Lucy felt a flash of acid shoot up her throat. Pierre hadn’t asked her that question before. “Of course you do, honey. Everyone has a daddy.”
          “Where is my daddy?” Pierre asked.
          Lucy thought frantically. She couldn’t tell her three year old son that his father was her boss. How could she explain that? What would she say? I’m sorry, baby, but Mommy was kind of a tramp for a while and your daddy is this fat, old bastard who signs my paycheck every week. Pierre might tell his teacher, Miss Susan, that and it would be all over town. “Your daddy is dead,” she announced.
          “Yes, I’m sorry to tell you that, sweetie, but he died in a terrible farming accident.” I’m going straight to hell for lying to my child.
          Lucy glanced over at Pierre. He didn’t seem too broken up. “Yes,” she elaborated, “he died before you were born but I know he loved you very, very much.” Some day she’d tell him the truth but not now. It would be much better for both of them if she waited until Pierre was grown and couldn’t be scarred too much by the knowledge that his biological father was the local lothario who had a permanent case of the clap and who cared as much about his own child as he might about a dead skunk.
          “Can we have pizza for dinner?” Pierre asked.
          “Of course!” Lucy agreed. “We can have anything you want, Pierre.” And she meant it. If it took every last cent she ever earned, her  son was never going to want for anything.
          Lucy was still stewing over Pierre’s sudden question about his paternity as she pulled into the parking lot at work. Quickly she scanned the cars and saw that all of the other new employees were there. Dick’s enormous Ford truck overshadowed all the other cars and was parked across four spaces so Lucy had to park her own 1974 Nova in the students’ parking lot. Dan was such a selfish, thoughtless jerk. Honestly, someone would be doing the world a favor if they just whacked the guy.
          She was opening her office door when another new employee, Greg Ingersoll, appeared out of nowhere. “Good morning, Lucy.”
          Lucy tried to sound pleasant. “Hello, Greg.”
          “How’s your son?” Greg smirked.
          Lucy didn’t answer him. She knew that Greg was well aware of who Pierre’s father was—the little creep was Dick’s right hand and the two had a history that went back to when Greg was a Cub Scout and Dick was his Troop Leader—and Lucy resented the way Greg treated her like a two dollar tootsie. “I wonder if it’s going to rain today,” she said pleasantly.
          “Snow is more like it,” Greg replied. “After all, it is December and we do live in Minnesota. How’s everything going with Dick these days?”
          “I hear you two aren’t getting along.”
          “Where’d you hear that?”
          “Oh, you know how it is at any job. We all know what’s going on with each other.”
          “I never know what’s going on.”
          “Well, I mean the salaried staff,” Greg corrected himself. 
          Lucy gritted her teeth. She’d worked at places where the hourly staff and the salaried staff were treated differently but her new job at Schuyler Square Charter School made those places look like models of Utopian Ideals of Democracy. “Dick and I are getting along fine.”
          “I heard you told Millie that you hoped Dick would drop dead.” Greg said conversationally.
          Lucy almost dropped her lunch bag. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
          Greg smirked again. “You’d better watch it, Lucy. The other guys on the staff might think you’re one hot mama but you don’t fool me.”
          “What’s that supposed to mean?”
          “It means that if I were you I’d keep my resume up to date. Dick’s not going to be in charge around here forever.” Greg winked at her and for a moment looked so much like Judy Garland in drag that Lucy almost expected him to break into a chorus of Over the Rainbow. She watched as he vanished down the hall toward his classroom.
          Dick appeared behind her. “Why are you blocking the doorway?” he asked. “You make a better door than a window, you know.”
          “Dick, Greg just said something to me that I have no idea how he could have heard. I think my office is bugged.”
          Dick’s laugh was short and ugly. “You are paranoid. What’s the matter with you? Why the hell would anyone around here be interested in anything you have to say?”
          Dick had a point. The school staff was interested primarily in themselves and Lucy didn’t doubt that none of them gave a collective rat’s behind about what she said in private. Still, it was more than a little strange how Greg was able to quote her exactly. 
          I suppose I’d better stop going around saying how much I hope Dick Thomas dies a horrible, painful death. With my luck the old pervert will be murdered and I’ll be blamed for it.
          “Are you planning on moving any time soon?” Dick asked. "You've got a lot of work waiting on your desk, you know."
          Lucy swept into her office. Greg had been right about one thing; the time had come to dust off her resume. She might have just started her new job but she could already see that she'd never be able to stay there forever. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Teacher Scarlett Nito

Her thin lips curling in their perpetual sneer, Scarlett Nito pulled into her spot behind the new charter school and put her Saab into Park.  Sitting for a moment and savoring the hum of the engine, Scarlett reflected how much she had in common with her car.  They were both well-built, expensive, and about twenty-five years past their prime. 
            When it was new, the Saab had been a luxury car that turned heads when she drove down the tree lined streets of Schuyler Square.  The good people of that dreary little Midwestern town drove Tauruses and Impalas. The more adventurous souls might drive a VW but that was about as foreign as anyone ever went. But that had been a long time ago. Now her car was faded, more than a touch shabby, and had torn upholstery and no one bothered to look at it twice.
Scarlett, too, was a bit faded.  Once upon a time she’d been a beautiful woman with a figure that made grown men weak in the knees.  Back in her days at the University of Minnesota, Scarlett, with her alabaster white skin, thick chestnut hair and deep sea green eyes, had been that rare commodity: a beautiful girl with an impossibly high IQ. 
            Staring through her windshield, Scarlett gave a deep sigh.  She’d been beautiful and she’d been brilliant.  Now she was only brilliant.  Fifty-five years old, as smart as Einstein, and stuck in this backwater town teaching mentally defective, bone lazy, tattooed and pierced adolescents who’d rather be off smoking dope than sitting in her classroom listening to her expound on the raw beauty of Faulkner.
            Damn Charlie anyway.  If her husband had been even a halfway decent professor he would have landed position at a college that had a little prestige, a little more glitz and a hell of a lot more glamour than Schuyler Square Community College.  Her sneer deepened as she thought about her husband.  Tubby little Charlie with his curly grey hair and big fat belly.  Boring little Charlie who told her the same dull stories about his same dull days, never once noticing how her eyes were glazing over or how she always yawned at precisely the same moment during each telling.  They’d been married for over thirty years and while she’d never been passionately attracted to the man, she’d at least thought she’d been marrying someone who would earn a good living and who might shed some of that reflected glory on her.
            “It’s all Charlie's fault that I have to go to work.  He misrepresented himself to me.” And he had.  Scarlett could have had any man she wanted when she was in college.  She’d chosen Charlie because she thought he had a future.  Some future.  After ten years of waiting for him to finally get the breakthrough she was waiting for, Scarlett had realized that it wasn’t going to happen. That was when she went back to teaching. True, being a high school teacher wasn’t the glamour job she’d always envisioned herself having but it beat trying to make it on Charlie’s pathetic little salary.
Getting out of the car, Scarlett readied herself for the interview she was about to have with Schuyler Square Charter School's principal. She was sure she'd get the job--only a fool wouldn't hire her--but she never liked interviews. They made her nervous and Scarlett despised feeling nervous about anything.
            “Good morning, Scarlett.”
            Scarlett looked up and frowned when she saw who had spoken to her. Jeff Winters was walking toward the back door too.  Damn.  That meant they’d have to walk in together.  Of all the teachers she had ever worked with, Jeff had to be her least favorite. Was it possible that he would be teaching at the new charter school too? Scarlett tried not to sniff as she returned his greeting.  “Good morning, Jeff.”
            “Man, I love that accent,” Jack said, just as he said every other day.  “You damn Brits.  You sound so sexy with that accent—all ice and frost on the outside but a regular raging inferno in the sack, am I right?”
            Scarlett gave him a full blast from her cool green eyes.  “Jeff, on many occasions you make me sick to my stomach.  This is one of them.”
            Throwing back his head, Jeff laughed, displaying many years of a total lack of dental care.  “Keep on telling me no, Scarlett.  Then when you say yes and we take our lunch break at the Drop On Inn we’ll both be thrilled.”  He winked at her.  
            Scarlett recoiled.  She wasn’t about to entertain any dirty talk from the likes of a twerp like Jeff. “Good day, Jeff.  I have an interview to get to.  She pushed past him and up the steps, feeling soiled after hearing his disgusting voice.
            Safely inside the school, Scarlett relaxed and set her dark brown leather briefcase on the floor. There wasn’t anything in it but her lunch (one half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, a small Tupperware container of low fat cottage cheese, and an apple) but she liked the way it made her look. Carrying a briefcase made her look like a professional, Scarlett was a big believer image. After all, her looks had played a major part in her life until she lost them.
            She made her way to the director's office and paused, running her tongue over her lips so that they glistened. She had to ace this interview. She simply had to. It was either become a teacher at Schuyler Square Charter School or become a stocker at one of the discount stores and Scarlett knew that she'd never be able to handle that. Not with all of her class.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas from Schuyler Square

Much has happened in Schuyler Square since our last visit. Mavis Schuyler married Leo, the blind date her sons found for her, and moved with her new hubby to Bermuda. Tyler and Brad Schuyler sold the family business and are both happily spending their days spending the family money. Tom Hartman and Veronica Chandler along with Tom's daughter Tiffany left Schuyler Square for the bright lights of Chicago. Mindy Cooper was hired to work for a gossip magazine and is now in Florida earning a huge salary for churning out stories about space aliens and the peculiar bedroom habits of movie stars. The population of Schuyler Square has changed almost completely so welcome to Schuyler Square: The Next Generation...

"So what exactly is a charter school?" Ginger Thomas looked at her husband, Dick, quizzically.

Dick shrugged. "I'm not exactly sure of the official definition but from what I can figure out a charter school is a regular school run by people want to do something different with education."

"Different how? Charter schools are in the news all the time for doing things wrong. How can the Schuyler Square Charter School be different?" Ginger asked, a worried tone in her voice. Dick had been involved in so many schemes and outright con games throughout their 30 year marriage that she was worried that his latest idea--teaching at Schuyler Square Charter School--was just another foolish idea of his that would eventually blow up in both of their faces.

"I don't know, Ginger, but whatever it is I'm getting in on the ground floor and I think it's going to work out just fine. It's a good thing I kept my teaching license active after getting fired after that incident at my last job."

Ginger cringed. The 'incident' Dick was talking about was still murky in her mind and although she knew she should ask Dick about the details of why he got fired from being the tennis coach at an all-girls high school, she had never been able to work up the nerve. Dick had a hair trigger temper that she had no intention of igniting. "What will you do there?" she asked.

"I'm going be the principal," Dick said proudly.

"But how can you be the principal?" Ginger asked. "You don't have a superintendent's license."

"Doesn't matter. I can learn. I might be over 50 but I know how to run a tight ship. By the end of the first semester I'm sure I'll know how to do everything that needs to be done and the first thing on my agenda at that point will be to give myself a nice, fat raise. I'm sure I'll have earned it."

Ginger opened her mouth to question Dick's judgment but stopped herself in time. Dick never liked it when she questioned anything that he did. But she had to ask one more question. "Dick, is this legal?"

Dick laughed heartily. "That's the beauty of it, Ginger, it's 100 percent legal. There isn't a chance in hell that I'll be doing any time over this one. I'm finally going to be on the right side of the law. Isn't that great?"

Ginger tried to smile but it was hard. So many of Dick's schemes had started out sounding wonderful but had ended up something completely different. "I hope so," she said doubtfully.

"Stop raining on my parade," Dick ordered. "Now I've got to get down to the school and do some interviewing. I want a staff that will ask 'how high?' when I tell them to jump."

Dick slammed out of the house. The moment Ginger was sure that he was gone she poured herself a large glass of brandy. At least he has a job, she told herself.  But she couldn't help question how long this latest job of Dick's would last.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Finding a Suitable Blind Date for Mom

Although Tyler and Brad Schuyler had led privileged childhoods, they weren't completely unaware of the fact that other people lived lifestyles a little different from their own. Tyler and Brad knew that not everyone had a live-in maid, their own car on their sixteenth birthday and lifelong memberships to the Schuyler Square Country Club. They had even known people who drove economy cars instead of luxury models and who stayed at chain motels when they went on vacations. But nothing had prepared either of them for Leo Farmer's house.

"This place is a pigsty," Brad muttered under his breath as he eyed a foot high stack of dirty laundry that was scattered across the floor. "It stinks too. How'd you find this guy?"

"Shut up," Tyler quietly ordered. "He'll hear you."

"Him?" Brad said in disbelief as he gestured across the room toward the naked, hairy back of Leo Farmer. "We could clash a couple of cymbals together and he wouldn't hear us. He asked me five times what my name is and I'm sure that's due to some major league wax blockage in those disgusting ears. Look at him!"

Reluctantly Tyler glanced over at the spot where Leo was standing in front of his kitchen sink, vigorously lathering his face, neck and torso with both hands and a bar of Ivory soap. He looked a great deal like a half-naked grizzly bear. A bald half-naked grizzly bear wearing blue and white striped pajama bottoms and pink fuzzy slippers. "He's a little rough around the edges but I'm sure he'll clean up just fine."

"Are you insane? The only thing that's going to be different when he's clean is that he won't smell quite so bad. Seriously, Tyler, can you really see Mom going out with that?"

"She'll go if she thinks he's richer than Donald Trump," Tyler said optimistically.

"Tell me again how you found this guy," Brad requested but at that moment Lou turned to face them so the brothers had to stop their conversation.

"That's better," Leo said in a voice that was a cross between a growl and a snarl. "I feel like a new man. Let me get a clean shirt on and then I'll go pick up your mom."

"Uh, Leo, maybe you'd better put some pants on too," Tyler suggested. "The Schuyler Square Country Club is a little on the fancy side."

Looking down at his torn and faded pajama bottoms, Leo laughed. "Good idea! I wouldn't want to shock all those stuffed shirts with my at home clothes. I'll be right down, boys. Help yourselves to a beer if you want one. I think I started a can that's on the top shelf." Leo left the combination living room/kitchen. A moment later Tyler and Brad heard a door slam down the hallway.

Immediately Brad collapsed onto Leo's sofa. "This is a nightmare! How are you ever going to convince Mom that Leo Farmer is a billionaire widower?"

"Mom will believe whatever we tell her," Tyler said, wishing that he believed what he was saying.

"I'm not so sure about that. I think she had a pretty good time with that Chuck guy last night. She didn't get home until after four in the morning. I doubt she'll be interested in meeting someone new. Especially someone like Leo."

"Stop worrying. Leo is going to make Mom forget all about Chuck."

"Why do I doubt that? Now tell me fast--where did you find that Bozo?"

"At the unemployment office," Tyler reluctantly admitted.

"The what?"

"You know, the place where people go when they can't find a job. Leo is an unemployed actor-slash-party entertainer."

"What's a party entertainer?"

"It's kind of like a clown only more classy. Leo juggles and tells jokes and also makes his own appetizers shaped like torpedos. He calls them 'Leo's Torpedos. He said they're out of this world."

"And you, naturally, believed him. Why did I let you talk me into this? Mom is going to see through our plan, get ticked and cut us out of the will for a few months. And suppose she dies during that time? Then we are really screwed?"

"All right, boys, I'm ready to meet your charming mother."

Brad and Tyler turned at the sound of Leo's gravelly voice, their jaws dropping in unison. Gone was the half-dressed, tubby, bald fire hydrant who had let them into his house. In his place was a handsome man wearing a charcoal grey suit, a crisp white shirt and a tasteful maroon tie. Leo looked like someone who might advertise good scotch in the New Yorker. "Well," Tyler said in a hopeful voice, "you look like you're ready to have a good time."

"I am," Leo assured him, "but I"m going to need to borrow a car from one of you two. My Gremlin broke down this morning and I can't get the sucker started for the life of me."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fixing Mom Up on a Blind Date

"Mom, do you have a moment?" Tyler asked his mother after entering her mirrored dressing room. Catching a glimpse of his reflection in the ceiling, Tyler tried to flatten a cowlick that was sprouting on the top of his head but it didn't work. Time to make an appointment for a haircut with Mr. Keith. Thank God we're rich and I never have to go to one of those cut-rate places for a haircut, Tyler thought. It must really suck to be poor--which was exactly why he needed to make sure his mother didn't get hooked up with yet another loser in her latest round of the middle-aged Dating Game.

"Of course, darling," Mavis assured him, carefully applying an extra thick line of dark blue eyeliner and extending it into a large wing just past her left eye. "But keep it quick. Mommy has a date tonight."

"Oh, yeah? Who are you going out with?"

"No one you know, precious. Just a man." Mavis smirked at her reflection. "A very handsome man."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Mom," Tyler said. "I, um, was wondering if you'd like to meet someone...someone sort of...well, you know..."

"Spit it out, Tyler," Mavis snapped. "What are you trying to say?"

"A friend of mine's widowed father just moved to Schuyler Square and I told him that you'd like to have dinner with him."

Mavis laughed. "Why on earth did you tell him that? I don't need any help from my son to find a date. I do quite well on my own, thank you very much."

"I know that--"

"Then why are you sneaking behind my back, arranging blind dates for me?" Half turning in her chair, Mavis peered intently at Tyler. "Unless this man is incredibly good looking and insanely wealth--then I'd know that you only have your mommy's best interests at heart. Is he handsome and rich?"

"He makes Donald Trump look like a chump and he's a dead ringer for Tom Cruise," Tyler assured her. "And he's dying to meet you."

Mavis turned back to the mirror and began to fuss with her curls. "Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt if I met the man. When are we supposed to get together?"

"Tomorrow night at the club."

"All right. I happen to be free tomorrow night but right now I'm running late. I'm meeting the most divine man at that new bar downtown--the one with the illuminated skull over the door."

"Your going to Headhunters?" Tyler felt his eyes bulge inside his own skull. The thought of his classy mother hanging out at a dive like Headhunters--blowing his future inheritance--made him sick to his stomach. Until recently Tyler had never cared too much about money but lately he'd done a great deal of growing up in that regard and he'd come to realize that not only was he entitled to his half of the Schuyler fortune, he also deserved it and he was going to make damn sure that his mother didn't blow it all before her number was up. "Have you ever been there before?"

"Not really. I walked past it once and peeked inside but I have to admit that it looked a little dingy to me.But Chuck assured me that I'll love their Red Headed Sluts."


"It's a drink, Tyler. Calm down. I think it has peach schnapps or something healthy like that in it. Doesn't it sound intriguing?"

Things were far worse than Tyler had even imagined. His mother usually stuck to dry martinis and now she was going to go drink a Red Headed Slut? Could life get any worse? Or any more confusing? "Then you'll go out with my friend's dad tomorrow," he confirmed.

Rising to her feet, Mavis squirted on a cloud of Opium and then patted him lightly on one cheek. "Of course I will. Especially if he's a rich and as handsome as you say he is. I'll see you later."

"Be home early!" Tyler called after her as Mavis floated out of her dressing room and toward the staircase. A moment later he heard the front door shut. Tyler sank into his mother's makeup chair and stared at his downcast reflection. Great. Just great. His mother was out with some gigolo and he needed to find someone who would be willing to pretend to be a grieving widower who just happened to be as rich as Donald Trump before tomorrow night. It looked like he had his work cut out for him.